Guest Blog: Social Investment Scotland’s Journey Towards Becoming a More Inclusive Organistion

Posted in: Blog, News.

Recently, at our Social Enterprise Policy and Practice Conference, we had Social Investment Scotland’s Head of Impact Lindsay Wake discuss how they are making their organistion more inclusive.  In this guest blog, Social Invesment Scotland tell us more about this journey.

At Social Investment Scotland (SIS), we are on a journey to becoming a more inclusive organisation.

SIS is a social enterprise and charity. We offer finance – usually in the form of loans or a mix of loans and grants – to social enterprises and third sector organisations across all 32 local authorities in Scotland. We also run development programmes for social enterprise founders, leaders, and trustees.

Our history is relevant in the context of inclusive organisations – we were established over 20 years ago by the then Scottish Executive, and in our early years didn’t focus on building a diverse team.

Over the years, this changed, and in the last few years we have made a concerted effort to significantly grow as an inclusive organisation.

In this blog, we will show how we are transforming SIS – and outline where there is still work to do.

Step 1 – Take small steps

When we started our journey, we were considered – we considered where to start, how to get it right; and to how to avoid being tokenistic or inadvertently offensive. We took small steps in a quiet and purposeful manner.

Firstly, we went on a brilliant training course by Radiant and Brighter. It taught us that to be successful in inclusion, you need commitment and action, and to make inclusion an organisational priority – and starting small is better than doing nothing at all.

We started by building confidence in the team. We ran two team training sessions that covered topics such as, the value of diverse voices and thoughts, protected characteristics and legal requirements, and unconscious bias.  These sessions sparked conversations and helped people feel more comfortable to take the next steps.

Step 2 – Listen and learn from others

Whilst we feel more confident in our journey, we still need to work with those who understand different perspectives; and bring more of these views into SIS.

We started looking at different charters and standards that we could work towards and sign up to, as these organisations have already done a lot of research and put together best practice guidelines on change.

We signed up to the social investment Diversity Manifesto 2.0 – which is a social investment specific charter, and many of the commitments are relevant to any organisation in any sector.

We have also worked alongside the following experts:

  • Black Professionals Scotland – we have hosted interns through their programme, and we advertise all our roles on their jobs board.
  • Changing the Chemistry – they’ve helped us work with customers to find ways to increase diversity of thought around their board tables;
  • CEMVO Scotland – we co-designed and delivered a social investment programme with them specifically for black and ethnic minority led social enterprises
  • Disability Confident employer scheme – a very useful programme and engaging workshops
  • Equaliteach – a social enterprise who have provided excellent team training and reviewed all our policies through a diversity lens
  • Be Applied – an online recruitment platform that minimises bias in recruitment processes
  • Foundation Apprenticeships through local schools – bringing the voice of youth to SIS

We also look to our team for relevant experiences they feel comfortable to share. We have an internal Diversity Working Group of team members who lead an annual action plan.

Step 3 – Act with authenticity

One of the main outcomes of joint working is that it helps us feel confident in what we’re doing and that we’re acting with integrity and authenticity.

Results take time, but we know we’re on a good track with feedback telling us:

  •  A candidate for a recent role specifically told us they applied to SIS because of our work on diversity; specifically saying the diversity statement on our website drew them to SIS as an organisation.
  • Flexible working approaches have been noted by team members particularly when it helps them with caring arrangements – including caring for children and other dependents.
  • Through the social investment programme with CEMVO we’ve heard directly from applicants that they got involved because of our working in partnership with CEMVO.

However, there is always more to do, and some of things we’re working on now are:

  • We are continuing to challenge ourselves. We will soon have a new team member join us for a 12-month placement to specifically follow through all our investment processes, our programmes and our communications – with a friendly critical eye – to help ensure that everyone who needs our services have fair and inclusive access to them.
  • When we assess applications, we consider the diversity of an organisation, and if it seems lacking, we work with customers to find ways to build this. We want to make that support more broadly available so that we can support more customers and others in our sector to develop their diversity approaches.
  • We’re going to do more work to build confidence in our line managers so that they feel confident in managing a diverse workforce; and make sure our managers live our policies and outward commitments every day. We’ll be creating a safe space for managers to talk about things they don’t feel confident about, or areas where they want to know.

We are proud of the journey SIS has had in terms of inclusivity, and there is always more to do.

Learn more about our diversity work and responsible business practices here: www.socialinvestmentscotland.com/about/responsible-business-practices-at-sis/.



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